As predicted, the Golden State Warriors protected home court and lead the best-of-seven, first round series 2-0 over the Houston Rockets. Nobody, not even the fans of Houston, predicted the Rockets to win this series. Golden State is coming off a record-setting season, winning 73 games. The Rockets barely snuck into the playoffs and got rewarded with a first round matchup with the best team in basketball today.
Steph Curry, the likely league MVP of this season, did not play on Monday night due to a sprained ankle he suffered in game one. The injury is said to not be a serious one, which is good for the Warriors in the long haul, but they didn’t need him in game two.
Even without Curry, Golden State, the reigning, defending NBA champions, put up 115 points, led by Klay Thompson’s 34. The Rockets (10) even made more threes than the Warriors (8), but it still wasn’t enough. Golden State had double-digit contributions from five different players, much like the Rockets, who were led by James Harden’s 28 on 7-19 shooting and 1-8 from three.
Dwight Howard had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds on 5-7 shooting. However, Howard was minimally involved in the Rockets offense, which led to bigger problems on the defensive end. When teams feed the big men on offense, they generally are more engaged to play help-side defense and protect the rim. Usually, that is the case when it comes to Howard, but his lack of offensive touches made him not care as much on the defensive end. Six players on the Rockets shot more times than Howard. While he isn’t the Dwight Howard of old, he should be fed the ball more, especially when he is shooting 5-7 from the field and getting to the free throw line (2-4). It looked as if the Rockets were freezing Howard out of the offense, which led him to not always be at the rim on defense.
Golden State took full advantage of the lackadaisical defense. Typically, we see the Warriors destroying teams with their three-point shooting barrages. On Monday night, knowing the Rockets weren’t playing great defense, they took the ball to the rack more and it paid dividends. The Warriors, again, without Curry, were a complete basketball team. The Rockets on the other hand, were not and are not. Too many times we see James Harden go into solo mode and chuck up a bunch of shots. He wants nothing to do with Howard or developing any kind of chemistry with him. He often doesn’t throw the ball inside to Howard, which doesn’t sit well with Howard.
Series aren’t ever over after the first two games, but this has the feel of becoming a possible sweep. The Warriors could and probably should rest Curry for the foreseeable future to make sure his right ankle gets to be as close to 100 percent as possible. Some questioned whether this team could carry the slack without Curry in the lineup and it did that and then some in game two. When the Warriors get just one field goal from Harrison Barnes and still put up 115 points, the opposition is in serious trouble. There is no need for Curry to risk any further damage to the right ankle the Warriors franchise hinges on, especially when the Rockets look like they are ready to go home and hit the links or go fishing. Whether Curry plays or not, the Warriors will sweep the Rockets out of the playoffs move one step closer to defending their title.
These two team are complete polar opposites and it is evident by the first two games of the series. Thompson and company can and will lead the way for however much longer Curry is sidelined. It would be great for the Warriors if they didn’t have to play Curry the rest of the series to get him additional rest for the second round and beyond. The Rockets are one of the most dysfunctional teams in recent memory, despite being in the Western Conference Finals against these same Warriors a season ago.